Life as a world-class athlete can also encompass moments as a world-class person. One such shining example is the unbreakable bond between twin sisters Lanny and Tracy Barnes. Although the Olympic Charter helps represent values that promotes progress through numerous accepted social boundaries, it also inspires those to be the best version they can be.
The sacrifice that Tracy made embodies such inspiration. Both competing in the biathlon, the dream of competing together again was jeopardized. Having trained together for 15 years, the two appeared in the biathlon at the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Part of the 4x6km relay team in Torino, they were part of a 15th place finish.
Having fallen ill prior to the IBU Cup, a series of four qualifying races in Ridnaun, Italy, which represented the opportunity to earn a spot on the US team, Lanny was unable to compete in three of them. When she competed at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, she would finish the 15K in 23rd place, not only a personal best, but the highest finish by a US female competitor since the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games. Suddenly, the opportunity to improve on that finish at Sochi seemed out of reach.
Despite the heartbreak of being unable to compete due to illness, Lanny would be the recipient of a surprising gesture. Tracy, who missed qualifying for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, had grabbed one of the five qualifying spots for Sochi. Ironically, she qualified at the IBU Cup, gaining the final spot. Adding to the irony was the fact that Lanny was one spot behind Tracy in order to qualify.
After the competition, the two would go on a hike together. For the sisters, the hike is a common ritual that takes part after every race they are involved in as a time to reflect. It was on a hike in Italy that Tracy made the heart-felt decision that instead of competing, she would give up her spot for Lanny. Although Lanny did not want her sister to make such a sacrifice, Tracy insisted that she get another chance.
Commenting on the decision, a life-changing and emotional moment for both of them, Lanny remarked on her sister’s selflessness and the display of the Olympic spirit. Tracy believed that she deserved a second chance as she stated that her sister had a better season before falling ill.
While Sochi shall represent the third Winter Games for the 32 year-old Lanny, the sisters from Durango, Colorado have captured the hearts and minds of sports fans the world over. In the United States, the two were interviewed by Matt Lauer on the highly popular Today Show. Tracy had mentioned during the interview that when someone cares enough about another’s efforts, they are willing to make a sacrifice.
Famed Irish-based brewer Guinness honored the bond between the Barnes twins by featuring them in a TV advertisement. Not a standard beer commercial by any means, it evokes powerful emotions that define the true meaning of teamwork. It was part of a series of ads which were part of the Irish brewing company’s Made of More campaign.
Sadly, the ad would not last long on the air due to a U.S. Olympic Committee rule. Of note, Team USA athletes cannot appear in advertisements for companies that are not Olympic sponsors during a specific time period. With Budweiser serving as the Team USA sponsor, a blackout period from January 30 – February 26 prevents the ad from airing.
Regardless of Lanny’s finish in Sochi, the importance is the chance to celebrate two remarkable people and the spirit of excellence that encompasses their unbreakable bond. The opportunity to not only represent the United States but her sister speaks of inspiration and teamwork, values that make both of them true champions.